I went to Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom!
I’ve really wanted to go to Animal Kingdom specifically to go on the Expedition Everest rollercoaster, so it may seem silly to go just for one ride, but it was worth it!
I went to Orlando to celebrate my birthday on Memorial Weekend, so the last weekend in May. I knew that it would be busy, but Disney is still only allowing a specific number of people in their parks and you have to make reservations ahead of time (a few weeks is best), so it was actually pretty nice and not very crowded. For COVID-19 restrictions, you have to wear a mask at all times when in line for the rides and while on the rides – they’re very strict about this, which is good since people aren’t social distancing as much anymore. I’m fully vaccinated so I felt comfortable, but I did constantly use hand sanitizer and wash my hands. It was also very hot, so I made sure to drink lots of water. A lot of the lines are out in the sun, so I’d wear sunscreen as a precaution and drink plenty of fluids so you don’t get dehydrated.
Tickets for Disney World parks range from $109 to over $150, depending on the time of year and if you’re a Florida resident. I think that my ticket was around $136, and I’m not officially a Florida resident. I went alone, since I’m still new to Florida and don’t know anyone yet, but it was just as enjoyable as if I went with others (although I do wish that my little brother and mom were there!). Parking for the Disney parks is $25 out in a large uncovered parking lot.
Animal Kingdom is the one park that closes early at 7pm, but I arrived at 2pm and was able to complete everything that I wanted to with time to spare. I didn’t really know what I was expecting with Animal Kingdom, but I was quite surprised! I guess that I imagined it as more of a zoo, but it’s really not. There’s a few spots where you can see random animals like flamingos or otters or monkeys, but other than that, they’re all pretty much in the back of the park in the Kilimanjaro Preserve. The entire park is separated in continents/lands. There’s Asia, Africa, Dinoland (all about Dinosaurs) and Pandora (all about the movie Avatar), along with the central area that I don’t think has a specific name.
Right when you walk in, you see the beautiful (fake) Tree of Life! Perfect photo spot for families, but I started my day making a beeline for Expedition Everest in Asia, the entire reason I went to Animal Kingdom. It was midday so very hot and probably peak hours for people, so when I arrived, there was an hour long wait. It honestly wasn’t too terrible as I’m used to waiting over an hour for a ride (ahem, Pirates of the Caribbean and any Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios), but it was hot. The line went pretty fast and before I knew it, I was at the front of the line boarding my train car. Oh my goodness, Everest is probably one of my favorite Disney rides! It’s like Thunder Mountain and Disneyland/Magic Kingdom, but better! Much faster, more G’s, you go backwards – it’s amazing. Definitely my favorite of the day!
After Everest, I wanted to go on the water ride, Kali River Rapids, which was supposed to be really fun, but the line was suuuuuper long and I didn’t feel like it was worth it. That was the only ride that I didn’t go on, along with the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” show.
I made my way over to Pandora to see what that was all about. I’m not a big Avatar fan myself (I’ve only seen it once), but I was impressed. It was really cool, but a super busy and popular area. After grabbing a pretzel and rum cocktail from a nearby shack (yes, Animal Kingdom serves a variety of alcohol!), I got in line for the Flight of Passage ride. This line, like Everest, was long and took about an hour. I didn’t know what to expect but if you’ve ever been on Soarin’ Over California in California Adventure, it’s exactly like that but Avatar-style. I won’t spoil it, but it simulates what it’s like flying on one of those dragon/pterodactyl/bird things in the Avatar world with a large screen, moving seats, wind and pumping smells and water at you. It was really cool and I went again later in the evening when the line wasn’t so long.
Also in Pandora is the Na’vi River Journey. This ride is hard to describe… think of It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean (except no drops). You ride on a boat throughout this river and there is a lot of beautiful lights, songs and an animatronic lady singing at the end, like Pirates. I went towards the evening so the line was only like 30 minutes, but it was a nice ride for families and if you just wanted a break from the intense rides.
A key experience to have at Animal Kingdom is, of course, the safari. The Kilimanjaro Safari takes you on a drive through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, which is a large African savanna preserve on the northern edge of Animal Kingdom. On the safari, you can see giraffes, rhinos, buffalo, Pumba + Timone (aka warthogs and prairie dogs), lions, cheetahs, elephants, and many more! Your tour guide will tell you a variety of stories and facts about the animals. When I visited, the line was literally walk-on and it wasn’t busy. The best times for this ride is probably either the early morning or evening (I went at about 4-4:30pm), when the animals are most active. Definitely a must-see at Animal Kingdom!
Right next to the exit for the safari is the Gorilla Falls Exploration trail, a walking trail that takes you past animal exhibits like zebras, prairie dogs, gorillas (I saw a baby!!!), and through an aviary. It only took 20 minutes meandering through and it was really cool to see the animals up close. It was very much so a “zoo-like” experience.
After having been to Asia, Africa and Pandora already, Dinoland was my last stop. This is where you can find the kiddy rides, but many of them were closed and it wasn’t very populated. There were also a few shows, like Finding Nemo, but I didn’t go to it. The main big kid ride in this land is Dinosaur. Dinosaur is like the Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland, where you get in a jeep and it jerks you around. The premise is that you need to go back in time to find a specific dinosaur but it’s just before the meteor strike that kills everyone, so you need to find it and get back to the 21st century right away. Lots of jump scares and dinosaur animatronics jumping out at you. Very intense. Not my favorite, but I did still enjoy it. This was another ride where I literally just walked onto it, which was great.
By the time I’d gone on every ride, it was about 6pm and the park was completely emptying out. All of the families were tuckered out from spending all day sweating so it there was only a few of us left. So, I went back and rode Everest two more times, back to back, literally walking onto the ride each time. It was amazing.
Overall, Disney’s Animal Kingdom was really fun. 10/10 experience for the entire family. I’m not sure that I’d go again by myself or with someone whose already been before, but you should definitely go at least once, if you can!
Thank you for reading! Have you ever been do Disney’s Animal Kingdom? What’s your favorite ride? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!